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Henway Hard Cider Returns

Henway Hard Cider Returns

Written by Diane Helentjaris | Photos courtesy of Henway Hard Cider

“Cider is finding its way,” shares Becca Rally, director of marketing for Experience Bluemont. Rally is a bubbly conversationalist, as bubbly as, well… a sparkling cider. Informative and responsive, she knows her stuff. Her email address block includes the half-joking title, “Branding Alchemist, Head of Creative Chaos.” When asked about the description, she responds, “What I do best is managing creatively and the best way I can describe it is ‘chaotic’ in the best possible way.”

Experience Bluemont, Rally’s employer, is the umbrella organization for the Zurschmeide family’s businesses. Thirty years ago, the Zurschmeides opened their flagship Great Country Farm. It grew beyond the typical pick-your-own farm, eventually offering field trips, activities for the kids, country cottages to rent, and a venue for events. 

While children enjoy plucking strawberries from their stems and choosing Halloween pumpkins, their parents may appreciate the farm’s ethos. Great Country Farm offers non-GMO fruits and vegetables and uses regenerative farming practices. Regenerative agriculture emphasizes sustainability. Resources — water, soil, land — are conserved, improved, nurtured. Waste is avoided. 

Out of this initial effort sprang Bluemont Vineyard, followed by Dirt Farm Brewery. In 2019, Experience Bluemont opened Henway Hard Cider. They began producing hard cider, and serving it in the taproom for customers to sit, sip, taste, picnic, and enjoy.

“Everything is rooted in farming. We take what we grow and make the most of it,” Rally says. “Cider is a natural growth from our craft beer, a natural extension of our farming roots. Taking what we grow [and using it]. … Virginia is a prominent region [for hard cider] because of the apples we find here. A craft cider starts in the orchard or on the farm. [Hard cider is] just now becoming popular.”

People have been fermenting apples and making cider for a very long time. When Julius Caesar invaded Britain, he found Celts making cider from crabapples and helped spread the practice through Europe. Cider making is found around the globe, each cider reflecting the terroir and culture of its locale. 

It’s not a one-way activity, either. A variety of fruits can be added to the apple juice, apple varieties switched up, sugar increased or decreased, the number of rounds of fermentation altered — all will result in distinct ciders. Production steps can be varied to provide a crystal-clear, cloudy, or sparkling drink. Even the condition of the apples can differ. Quebec developed “ice cider,” made from apples allowed to freeze on the trees. One can only imagine how this first came about with an early freeze and a farmer loath to waste his crop. 

Virginia has a long history of apple and cider production. Apple trees blossom and bear fruit easily in many areas of the state. Colonials quaffed hard cider, partially to stay healthy. Water quality was often dicey and the alcohol in the cider killed at least some of the germs. Even children drank hard cider in the past. In 2012, the Virginia General Assembly passed a resolution making the full week before Thanksgiving Virginia Cider Week. The 50 or so cideries in the state celebrate the week with special activities, tastings, workshops, and open houses. 

This year, Experience Bluemont anticipates reopening the Henway Hard Cider taproom to coincide with Virginia Cider Week (November 10 – 19). Details can be found on Henway Hard Cider’s website and social media. Closed in the summer of 2022 for construction, the Henway Hard Cider taproom will open with new products and a refreshed menu with a Southern flair. The Coop, a semi-sweet, “apple forward” favorite, will be offered along with such ciders as Liquid Courage, Cherry Vanilla, Apple Cider Donut, and Spring Peach. 

Anyone looking for a new beverage to explore should consider hard cider. The many flavors and styles are enough to keep the most curious exploring onward. It is popular with folks who like a sweeter beverage, and those who follow a gluten-free diet appreciate the lack of grain in nearly all hard ciders. Virginia hard ciders clock in at 7% to 10% alcohol by volume. Hard cider, as a craft beverage, is coming into its own. 

Rally suggests, “Cider is a young industry. When you see hard cider, don’t overlook it. There are some hidden gems, especially in the state of Virginia.” ML

Henway Hard Cider
18780 Foggy Bottom Road
Bluemont, Virginia 20135
(540) 554-8439

Published in the November 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

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